Enhanced operating protocols and procedures have been proposed to improve the implementation of the Shiprider Agreement between the United States and Jamaica under which, both countries cooperate to curtail illicit maritime drug trafficking.
This follows an incident in October 2020 where four Jamaican men aboard the Jamaican-registered vessel, Lady Lawla, were detained after the boat was intercepted, its cargo inspected by the US Coastguard. The US authorities alleged that the men were transporting cocaine.
Following the detention of the men, the Lady Lawla was destroyed on the grounds of representing a danger to navigation.
However, on December 15, the US Southern District Court dismissed charges brought against the four Jamaicans. The containers on the boat were proven to have only gasoline.
Jamaica’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade was only made aware of this development on December 28, from media reports.
The Government took immediate action to have the men returned to Jamaica as quickly as possible. The men returned to Jamaican on December 31 on a regular commercial flight. The four men have reportedly been left traumatized by their detention.
In a statement during the sitting of the Senate on Friday, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, said new operating protocols and procedures have been proposed regarding the operational procedures of the Shiprider Agreement.
The Shiprider Agreement allows the United States and Jamaican law enforcers, with the permission of either party, to intercept suspect vessels in each other’s territorial waters, to apprehend vessels and crew.
It also provides for the waiver of prosecutorial jurisdiction over the island’s citizens.
Johnson-Smith said the new proposed agreements relate to procedures following the boarding and search of intercepted vessels; and the status of nationals from the time of the granting of a waiver up to the outcome of any legal or judicial action pursued against them, pursuant to the agreement.
The new proposal comes after members of the Opposition accused the Government of “selling out” the Jamaican fishermen by not acting quickly.
“The Jamaican Government expressed in very clear terms, certain steps key to bridging gaps in implementation as well as its strong disappointment at the recent developments including the failure of the US authorities to communicate critical information on the dismissal of the case, as envisaged by the agreement,” she said.
Senator Johnson Smith noted that during the bilateral exchange, apologies were extended to Jamaica by the United States regarding the handling of the matter.
Jamaica entered into the Shiprider Agreement in 1997, which was brought into force by the passage of the Maritime Drug Trafficking (Suppression) Act, 1998. This Act has since been amended twice – in 2004 and 2016.
The Agreement sought further cooperation in deterring the movement of illicit drugs through Jamaican territorial waters from South America to the US. It further allows for cooperation in ship boarding, ship riding and overflight.